About the time that President Reagan was taking his oath for a second term Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court made final one of the last acts of the Carter Administration: inclusion of five Northern California streams into the national wild and scenic rivers system.
There was more than a little controversy concerning the wild-river designation covering all or portions of the Eel, Klamath, Trinity, Smith and American. And there is more than a little irony in the timing of the court's decision. Back on Jan. 19, 1980, the outgoing Interior secretary, Cecil D. Andrus, signed the order on the eve of Ronald Reagan's first inauguration knowing that it was then or never. At least, Andrus knew, his immediate successors were not likely to approve the request of then-California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr.
Indeed, the new Interior secretary, James G. Watt, protested and threatened to cancel the directive. He yielded on that score, but California water agencies and farm groups sued. They contended that Andrus had not completed the proper paperwork needed to make the order final.
A district judge sided with the plaintiffs, but was overturned by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said that the objections were trivial. The Supreme Court settled the issue by letting the circuit court's judgment stand.